IWSG: Lessons

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

I recently completed a writing retreat and workshop in France. As idyllic as it sounds, I was insecure about it! Six writers, all strangers (at least to me), in an intimate setting . . . But of course it went beautifully and was a wonderful experience. Now my insecurities are based on living up to all their faith in me and my work! I’ve been given a deadline for Hamlette, which is actually good for me; I work so much better under deadlines, particularly ones imposed by someone other than myself. I’m glad to have people to hold me accountable.

Question of the Month: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

I’ve learned so much over the years, so it’s tough for me to narrow it down to just one lesson. I will say that it’s important to set goals. Realistic ones. Bite-sized ones. Know what “success” looks like to you, whether it’s landing an agent and a major publisher, or self-publishing and selling X number of books. And don’t let anyone tell you your personal version of success is wrong. That is, don’t let them tell you what you “should” want. That’s their idea of success; it doesn’t have to be yours. (This is the whole point of my screenplay 20 August, btw.) Anyway, be sure and clear about what you want. Then break that goal into steps and start taking them.

IWSG: Quitters

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Question of the Month: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

I’ve quit multiple times. Or tried. Writing is an addiction. Or really, for me it’s a vent, an escape valve for all that builds up inside of me. I keep hoping to be heard—I often feel as though no one is listening when I’m trying to tell them something, that no one cares. Maybe, for me, writing is a semi-permanent thing so that one day someone will read and hear and listen and I’ll no longer be ignored. One day I’ll matter.

IWSG: Stranger Things

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

I’m insecure about everything these days. Writing and publishing feels like such a minefield. One false move… The key is to always go back to why I’m writing and find the joy in it. That’s harder to do some days more than others. I worry about whether anyone will like what I’m working on, whether anyone even cares, what if it doesn’t sell, what if this is all for naught? I have to continually remind myself that it’s never for naught if I enjoy it and am satisfied. I’m not looking to make millions (though I wouldn’t say no to that, either); I’m just looking to put my heart into something. And share it. And hope at least a few people get something out of it.

And I have the Bay Area Book Festival next month. What if no one comes to my table? What if no one wants to talk to me, and I just sit there in the heat all day? Ugh. Why did I even sign up to do this?

Oh! But I’m never insecure about doing interviews and guest posts! And today I’m being interviewed by a squirrel! So come take a look!

Question of the Month: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

Um… No idea. Spy stuff for Peter? Animal classifications for Manifesting Destiny? Right now I’m having fun with fairy lore as I write Faebourne… I don’t know how much I’ll use, but it sure is entertaining! And very easy to fall down that rabbit hole and forget to get on with my writing!

IWSG: Too Much = Not Enough

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

I currently have three different writing projects in the works. Meanwhile, I’m also being slammed by one son’s baseball schedule and the other son’s physical therapy appointments as he learns to walk again after breaking his leg. I can hardly find two minutes to rub together, and when I do, I barely get warmed up before I have to get up and do something else. These days I’m lucky if I even get a paragraph written on any given day. I don’t know how I’ll ever finish writing any of my books!

Sorry for venting, but this is what I’m insecure about this month. Getting my writing done. Prioritizing my projects.

This month’s question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

I’ve participated in A to Z twice. Once as an addendum to my Peter Stoller novellas (this was before The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller was published by Tirgearr), and once as the start of a sequel to The K-Pro. I don’t know that I’d call these “marketing” though the goal was to create greater awareness for the source materials. It’s not clear to me whether it worked in terms of getting people to buy and/or read either St. Peter in Chains or The K-Pro, though I did get a lot of site traffic and a few people have asked whether that K-Pro sequel will ever get written. The answer is: maybe? It’s still on my list of potential projects.

By the way, did you know this is also Read Self-Published Month? Visit the Facebook group to find out more and find some great new reads! And don’t forget you can read Brynnde for FREE via Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited!

IWSG: Blocked!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

Writer’s block is what has me insecure this month. I simply can’t seem to make headway with the Changers sequel, and that’s causing a certain amount of anxiety in me. I’ve got a little over 20k words written, and now I’m well and truly stuck. I’ve tried just writing through it, but no. I’ve outlined, so I know where I need to go, I just feel like a wagon with its wheels in the mud. I’ve considered skipping the chapter I’m on and writing the rest, but I can’t work that way—I’m a linear writer. I’ve dabbled with other projects on the side, but I know this book needs to get finished, and that’s probably making things that much worse. *headdesk* Anyone else want to write this book for me?

Question of the Month: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Uh, I’ve pulled out some old stuff now and then and looked at it. I’ve even thought, I should do something with this. And then I never do. I don’t know why. In particular, I would like to rework my Master’s thesis, which was a middle grade historical fantasy. It’s on my list of project, but I don’t know if or when I’ll ever actually be ready to tackle it.

IWSG: New Frontiers

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

This month I’m both nervous and excited. Nervcited? A couple of things are happening: 1. I’m putting out a new book in a completely new genre for me. I’ve long loved reading Regency romances but never thought to write one until now. I’d been writing a lot of heavy books and found myself needing a lighter project. I was just playing around, really, but found I loved it! So I’m hoping you will all enjoy Brynnde too, and that I’ll find fellow Regency lovers to read it. 2. I’m doing an audiobook! I attended a talk about audiobooks at last year’s InD’Scribe and it really planted the seed for me to want to have one of my books adapted to that format. I don’t know yet how it will work out, but I’m hopeful. So far I’ve had some great auditions and plan to pick a narrator soon. Stay tuned!

As for being nervcited, well, of course there’s the nagging fear of: What if it all goes to hell? What if it all fails? But I’ll never know until I try, right?

Question of the month: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I recently noticed this as I was re-reading Dune and then again while reading Anne Perry’s The Face of a Stranger—that my knowledge of “rules” for writing sometimes pulls me out of a book when I notice one of those rules being broken. And the truth is, these writing rules are relatively modern and new, and the books cited above are somewhat older and probably not beholden to those rules. But I still noticed. In the same way that I notice things in movies because I have a film degree and also have worked on film sets. I think any time you have experience in an area, you’re going to notice things, for good or ill. You’ll get the inside jokes but you’ll also notice the errors.

IWSG: Writing Rules

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

Last year I had two books and one short story published. This year I plan to publish at least one book, and I hope to finish a couple other manuscripts. I’m feeling hopeful about that.

Last year I attended two conferences. This year I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend any (unless invited as a guest). I feel a little sad about that.

How are you feeling going into the new year?

Question of the Month: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

All of them?

I think too much advice hobbles the writer, stems the natural flow. Or, rather, I think too many rules at the wrong time do. Rules are important. Rules of grammar, and then also how to handle character and plot and pacing and description. But if a writer goes in worried about all the rules, he or she can become paralyzed, afraid to do anything because it might be “wrong.” And there’s no wrong way to write. At least not at first.

So here is MY rule: Write. Don’t look at advice or how-to or anything else until you’ve written it. THEN go back and figure out what needs to be fixed. I go into more detail about this and the writing/submission process in this guest post. I hope you’ll give it a read.

IWSG: Not Good Enough

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

Lately I’m having that bit of insecurity many of us have in life whether we’re writers or not: the fear of not being good enough. Sometimes it seems, no matter what I do or how hard I try, it just isn’t enough. That leads to wondering why I’m wasting all this time and energy on writing. It can be a terrible, depressing spiral.

When you’ve given something your all—and I’m talking about not just doing something but having done your very best, put blood and sweat and tears into it—the last thing you want to hear is that you still fell short of the mark. But the truth is, sometimes your best at that time won’t be quite enough. Sometimes a story (or other project) exceeds your abilities. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to get it right. It just means you need to hone your craft a bit more first.

Think of it as reaching for something that’s just beyond your fingertips. Sometimes you just barely swipe it, but then it falls and crashes. What you need is a stepping stool. In this example, that stool is the hours you put into writing and getting better. You can reach farther and farther the more you write because writing = adding steps to your stool.

Not good enough is a fact of life. But it doesn’t ever mean you can’t get better. You just have to be willing to put in the work. And when you’ve put in a ton of work and it’s still not good enough? That’s hard. But know that the work you’ve put in is adding to your stepping stool—even if it’s not high enough yet, it will be eventually.

IWSG Question of the Month: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

Ahahahaha! What’s the saying? “Man makes plans and God laughs”?

I think it’s important to have goals, but it’s also important to remain flexible. In five years I expect to have put out at least five more books, and hopefully they will be selling steadily. I plan to continue attending conferences, ideally as a guest author and presenter, but sometimes just as an attendee. I’d also like to be doing more signings and events. I’m currently trying to figure out that side of things by making connections with independent bookstores and event planners. (Anyone want to split a table at BookCon with me?) And I’m planning to explore the possibility of audiobooks, too.

Being a writer these days also means being a small business. You have to invest in yourself and your career, which sometimes means spending money to make money. I struggle with that, and I think a lot of other writers do, too. We don’t have a lot of money, so we have to figure out how best to use our dollars. That’s where the planning comes in. Because you do need to plan. You can’t sit and hope to be stumbled upon by readers. You need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for them so they can find you—and with all these other writers leaving goodies, too, you’d better have the best bread in order to entice readers to your door. So I plan to get out there where people can see me, hopefully in places where readers can be found. It’s not easy. Not only because I’m shy but because I have to sell myself, and that doesn’t come naturally at all. But I’ve discovered a great community of writers at these events, people willing to help one another. If nothing else, at the end of the day I’ll have that much.

Aim high, but count every little blessing.

IWSG: Marketing

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writers Support Group! This post goes up the first Wednesday of the month. Read and support other writers by clicking here. You can sign up to participate, too!

This month I’m insecure about marketing. Actually, I’m insecure about that every month. Things that used to work no longer do, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to catch and keep readers. That starts me worrying that I’m just not a good enough writer—a fear any good writer has—though I know a big part of the problem is that there are simply so many books out there in the world, and so many people hawking theirs, that it’s almost impossible to be heard. Readers can get books for free pretty much all the time, so why should they buy mine? Until I build that loyal following, it will continue to be a struggle, and it can be very disheartening.

(Want to make me feel better? Consider signing up for my newsletter there on the sidebar. Pretty please? I don’t send it out too often and I don’t share your email address with anyone.)

Okay, question of the month: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Not having to work in a “real” office? Seriously, though, I’m very fortunate to be able to make writing my career. I worked in publishing for a while but I don’t do office politics well and I’m better off working on my own terms. I like that I’m making something that will exist after I’m gone, even if no one ever reads these books. A legacy of sorts. And I really enjoy the community of writers I’ve found along the way, the ones I’ve met at conferences, the mutual support. So much better than the backstabbing I encountered in the professional environment!

As for writing itself, I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of it. I’m a creative thinker but have an analytic streak and enjoy writing through things and seeing how the plot points connect—like bones and sinew. Hmm, that’d make a fine title . . .

IWSG: Ready or Not…

InsecureWritersSupportGroupTomorrow I fly off for my first ever conference as a guest author rather than a mere attendee. (Not to slam being an attendee. I’ve been one many times over and love that, too.) I’m excited and nervous and… Yeah, insecure. Not so much about the panels because I think those will be fun. But about being alone, hanging out. Sort of like the first day at a new school. What if everyone ignores me and I have no one to talk to? And then there’s anxiety about the author table. What if no one buys any of my books and I’m just sitting there with a rictus smile on my face the whole time? But ready or not, I’m going in. Sign up for my newsletter (on the sidebar) to find out how it goes!

IWSG Question of the Month: How do you know when your story is ready?

I just know.

Sure, first I get feedback and make revisions. Nothing springs forth perfectly formed. If you think your writing is perfect the moment you put it on the page, then I’m sorry, but you’re probably not a very good writer. In fact, I’d say nothing is perfect even once published. There’s always room for improvement. So you have to look at the returns and decide when the amount of effort in revising is no longer less than or equal to the gains to be made. That is to say, the gains should always be more than or equal to the effort.

But even with this equation in the back of my mind, the truth is, I just know when it’s done. Ready. Or, perhaps more accurately, I know when there’s still something not quite right. I may not know what the problem is, but I’ll set the piece aside and work on something else while my subconscious runs a subroutine to figure it out. Sometimes my critique and beta readers can help me zero in, sometimes not. I rely to an extent on my gut instinct here. That’s part of being a writer, too, I think. Instinct. Knowing when to take someone’s advice and when not to, knowing when keep tinkering and when not. Don’t strive for perfection. You’ll make yourself crazy if you do and may never finish anything. Only aim to tell the best story you can, the best you know how. And remember that the more you do it, the better you’ll know how for the next story.

Read other IWSG posts and join by adding yourself to the list here.